Ecolabels and Green Stickers are labelling systems for food and consumer products. Ecolabels are often voluntary, but green stickers are mandated by law in North America for major appliances and automobiles. They are a form of sustainability measurement directed at consumers, intended to make it easy to take environmental concerns into account when shopping. Some labels quantify pollution or energy consumption by way of index scores or units of measurement; others simply assert compliance with a set of practices or minimum requirements for sustainability or reduction of harm to the environment.
Ecolabelling systems exist for both food and consumer products. Both systems were started by NGOs but nowadays the European Union have legislation for the rules of ecolabelling and also have their own ecolabels, one for food and one for consumer products. At least for food, the ecolabel is nearly identical with the common NGO definition of the rules for ecolabelling. Trust in the label is an issue for consumers, as manufacturers or manufacturing associations could set up "rubber stamp" labels to greenwash their products.
The last few years have seen a few key trends in the ecolabels space. One is the explosion in the numbers of different ecolabeling programs across the world and across business sectors, with many schemes broadening their issues to cover social, ethical and safety issues as well as just environmental. This has led to some confusion and perhaps fatigue amongst consumers and brand awareness of most labels (such as the EU Ecolabels) remains low. A second key trend is the rise in uptake of voluntary ecolabels and sustainability standards by the business-to-business sector. In this space, global firms are demanding that the standards be (a) global in nature and (b) well documented, transparent and trustworthy. This has led to the growth of a few "super standards" which have become major global brands and are likely to edge out some of the smaller standards and labels in place. Key examples are the Fairtrade label, the Forest Stewardship Council and the Marine Stewardship Council. All have become well known consumer brands as well as key supplier filters for global buyers. This has led to the emergence of "standards for standards" whereby the organizations setting voluntary ecolabels adhere to guidelines laid down by wider stakeholder bodies.
Consumer desires for sustainable consumption is driving the global marketplace to regulate product production. The globalization of economies is shifting control of sustainability away from traditional command and control measures imposed by governments towards market governance which is a self-regulatory new environmental policy instrument, eco-labelling.
In terms of eco-labelling, both certification and private standardization run parallel. Eco-labelling standardization is a new form of regulation which is voluntary in nature, but impose upon large companies using market forces in order to harmonize production of goods and services with environment. Recently, it has turned into a new form of non-state authority at both national and international levels. This idea of entrepreneurial democracy  based on the success of the ISO 14000 standards on the management of environmental quality and the ISO 9000 standards on quality production control. Once an industry sector decides to get this certification, it has to provide evidences of documented proof of compliance required. In terms of ISO 14042 standard, it is obligatorily for all applicants to respect environmental legislation and related legislation; breaching of any laws will result in licensing suspension.
During the UN Earth Summit Conference in 1992, an international consensus was generated to integrate environmental issues into manufacturing procedures. The idea was to manipulate consumption patterns in order to achieve sustainable development. The result of this is as follows.
Currently in the developed world: Eco-labels and green stickers have evolved to play a vital role. They provide a verifiable linked between products and informed consumer wishes. This approach is applying market pressure on industries to minimize their environmental impact; this is evidence that the number of informed consumers has grown and become a market force. Marketing strategists are responding with Green Certifications and its abuse, Greenwashing.
Currently in the developing world: First consumers became concerned about the quality, safety and environmental sustainability of food and supported demand for green foods, then focused on the environmental effects of agriculture and globalization of food production, which lead to the exposure of globally controlled food regimes. Consumer advocate groups responded with a call for [Alternative Food Networks]. This gives a new dimension to consumer demands and corporate competitiveness. Australian Consumer Association CHOICE confronted corporate interests with their concerns about growing interests in green consumption, food production, use of pesticides, organic production, and genetic modification, etc...
Green Stickers on consumer goods have been evolving since the 1970s. The main drivers have been energy and fuel consumption. These stickers first started appearing on major appliances after government agencies in the United States and Canada legislated their requirement. Manufacturers are also required to meet minimum standards of energy use. The automobile industry in North America is required to meet a minimum emissions standard. This led to fuel efficiency labels being placed on new automobiles sold. The major appliance manufactures were required to use standard testing practices and place clear labels on products. The International Organization for Standardization has developed standards for addressing environmental labelling with the ISO 14000 family which grew out of ISO's commitment to support the objective of sustainable development discussed at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development, in Rio de Janeiro, in 1992
Green Labelling worldwide is moving beyond traditional country borders. Most of these initiatives are voluntary Eco-labels, however there is an initiative under way in North America to broaden the scope of Green Stickers to include other consumer goods.
Programs by region
Governments of many countries have environmental protection agencies. These agencies are mandated watchdogs of industry and regulate releasing chemical pollution into the environment. Some of them administer labelling standards; other set minimum requirements for manufacturers.
The Office of Energy Efficiency (OEE) run by the Department of Natural Resources Canada regulates both the automobile and appliance manufacturers. EnerGuide label for vehicles found on all new passenger cars, light-duty vans, pickup trucks and special purpose vehicles not exceeding a gross vehicle weight of 3855 kg (8500 lb). The label shows the city and highway fuel consumption ratings and an estimated annual fuel cost for that particular vehicle. Federal law in Canada, under Canada's Energy Efficiency Regulations,requires that the EnerGuide label be placed on all new electrical appliances manufactured in or imported into Canada and that the label indicate the amount of electricity used by that appliance. This information is determined by standardized test procedures. A third-party agency verifies that an appliance meets Canada's minimum energy performance levels.
All major home appliances must meet the Appliance Standards Program set by the US Department of Energy (DOE) on cooperation with the US Federal Trade Commission. Manufacturers must use standard test procedures developed by DOE to prove the energy use and efficiency of their products. Test results are printed on yellow EnergyGuide label, which manufacturers are required to display on many appliances. This label estimates how much energy the appliance uses, compares energy use of similar products, and lists approximate annual operating costs. Appliances that meet strict energy efficiency criteria set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency are eligible for the blue Energy Star label. The Energy Star label is also available on energy-efficient televisions, computers, audio visual equipment and electronics, office equipment, heating and cooling equipment, and many more products. Energy Star is also available on energy efficient homes and buildings in the United States. American automobile manufacturers are required to use certified U.S. Environmental Protection Agency fuel economy test results and cannot use any other fuel mileage results to advertise vehicle fuel efficiency. The state of California has green sticker license plates issued to OHVs is introducing green stickers for all new automobiles in 2009.
The EU Ecolabel was established in 1992 by the European Commission to encourage businesses to market products and services that meet high standards of environmental performance and quality. The EU Ecolabel is awarded according to environmental criteria agreed on by experts, industry, consumer organisations and environmental NGOs at European level. Highly qualified and independent Competent Bodies have been appointed in each EU Member State to administer the certification of the label at national level. Usually both the precautionary principle and the substitution principle are used when defining the rules for what products can be ecolabelled.
EU Ecolabel criteria consider the whole life cycle of a product, from the extraction of raw materials, through manufacture, packaging, distribution, use and disposal of the product. Criteria have been formulated for 26 non-food and non-medical product groups that are reviewed every 3–5 years to keep up with technological innovation. New product group development is continuously underway in accordance with the EUEB criteria-setting procedure.
The EU Ecolabel has seen two major revisions since its beginnings. Its most recent revision was launched in 2009, and implemented in February 2010. Some of the goals were to provide for a more rapid translation of criteria development into product categories, to harmonise the EU Ecolabel with other ecolabels and to minimize costs in the process, as well as to simplify the application procedure.
The EU Ecolabel is part of a broader EU Action Plan on Sustainable Consumption and Production and Sustainable Industrial Policy adopted by the European Commission on 16 July 2008, COM(2008) 397, which also links the EU Ecolabel to other EU policies such as Green Public Procurement (GPP) and Ecodesign of Energy Using products.
The EU Ecolabel helps consumers and public procurer's to easily identify environmentally friendly products. It is a voluntary scheme and represents the only EU-wide Type 1 official ecolabel, providing a convenient tool for EU Ecolabel licence holders channel their marketing through a single label, represented by a flower.
More detailed information about ecolabelled products and where they can be purchased can be found in the new EU Ecolabel’s E-Catalogue, which contains a detailed database of ecolabelled products according to country and product type.
The Nordic swan is the official ecolabel in Nordic countries. It uses a system of standards, applications for licenses, and independent verification.
In Asia ASEAN is moving towards adopting the ISO's TC 207 environmental management system. Can anyone can contribute verifiable sources substantiating it's adoption and implementation by member countries as this information is not easily accessible.
There are a plethora of sustainable seafood ecolabels, many conservationists feel that the increasing number of labels is further confusing consumers in regard to what seafood is sustainable. As of 2010, ecolabels that can be found on seafood include Marine Stewardship Council, Friend of the Sea, KRAV (Sweden), Naturland (Germany), Thai Quality Shrimp, Global Aquaculture Alliance's Best Aquaculture Practices standard, Label Rouge (France), among still others, and the Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC) is in development. Seafood is also labeled "organic" but USDA standards for organic seafood are still in development.
Marine Stewardship Council
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The Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) is an independent non-profit organisation  which sets a standard for sustainable fishing. Fisheries that wish to demonstrate they are well managed and sustainable against the science-based MSC standard are assessed by a team of experts who are independent of both the fishery and the MSC. Seafood products can display the blue MSC ecolabel only if that seafood can be traced back to a fishery that has been certified against the MSC standard.
The MSC was founded in 1997 by the World Wide Fund for Nature and Unilever, and became fully independent in 1999. The MSC standard is consistent with the ‘Guidelines for the Eco-labelling of Fish and Fishery Products from Marine Wild Capture Fisheries’ adopted by the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) in 2005.
As of February 2012, there are over 13,000 seafood products available with the MSC ecolabel, sold in 74 countries around the world. At present uptake of MSC labelled products in the UK is mixed; some of the more ethical supermarkets such as Sainsbury's source a significant number of MSC labelled seafood products, whilst Tesco lags behind.
Friend of the Sea
The Friend of the Sea is an NGO founded in December 2006 to conserve marine habitat and resources by means of market incentives and specific conservation projects. It is the only scheme which certifies as sustainable, with the same seal of approval, both farmed and wild-caught products. Certified products from all continents include anchovies, caviar, clams, cuttlefish, halibut, kingfish, mackerel, mulloway, mussels, prawns, salmon, seabass, seabream, shrimps, squid, sturgeon, trout, tuna, turbot. Fishmeal, fishfeed and Omega-3 Fish oil have also been certified. Sustainable seafood, products and their origins are audited onsite by international certification bodies, against Friend of the Sea criteria. Certification bodies currently auditing against Friend of the Sea criteria are Aqa, Bureau Veritas, IFQC and SGS .
Ecolabels indicating that timber in wood-based products originates from forests that are sustainably managed in compliance with internationally recognized standards include at a global level labels by the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification and the Forest Stewardship Council, at regional and national levels labels by the Sustainable Forestry Initiative and the Malaysian Timber Certification System (both internationally recognized by PEFC) or the Lembaga Ekolabel Indonesia (LEI).
The timber is tracked through the supply chain to the end product, so that consumers can choose to buy sustainably harvested wood over alternatives that may be contributing to deforestation worldwide.
Many consumer appliances have labels indicating whether or not they are energy efficient compared to similar products. Common labels include yellow EnergyGuide tags found in North America as part of the Energy Star program, European Union energy labels, and the Energy Saving Trust Recommended logo administrated by the Energy Saving Trust in the United Kingdom. These labels document how much energy an appliance consumes while being used; energy input labeling documents how much energy was used to manufacture the product, an additional consideration in the full life cycle energy use of product.
Sustainable palm oil
The RSPO (Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil) label is a tradmarked ecolable that can be placed on products using Palm Oil from RSPO certified farms.
- Blue Angel
- Carbon emission label
- Display Campaign
- Environmental Choice New Zealand
- Environmental Choice Program
- Global Ecolabelling Network
- Green Seal
- Greenguard Environmental Institute Certification Program
- ISO 14000
- Nordic swan
- Planet Positive (in the UK and the US)
- Environmental certification
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Eco labels|
- Belgian Ecolabel
- GreenLabel.sg Green Label Singapore
- Ministry of Economic Development - Ecolabels in use in New Zealand
- Video segment from 'Connected Life', msn.com
- USA Household Appliance Energy Guide label
- US EPA green vehicle guide
- Ecolabelling.org The independent global directory of ecolabels
- wikiPPP.org, A wiki-label initiative (Product, People, Planet)
- Shaping Sustainable Markets, Database of certification and standards